Become a Discovery Scholar

The Discovery Scholar distinction is intended to recognize and celebrate graduating seniors who have excelled academically while making a meaningful contribution to their field of study through exceptional new scholarship or artistic work. Learn more about the history of the Discovery Scholar distinction here.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility
Step 2: Review Project Requirements
Step 3: Apply for Discovery Scholars

1. Determine Eligibility

To be designated as a Discovery Scholar upon graduation, applicants must be a graduating senior and:

  • graduate with a minimum of 3.5 overall GPA (with University Honors)
  • graduate within 5 years of entering USC
  • meet criteria for distinction set by the appropriate USC School

COVID-19 Update

If an applicant’s research has been impacted by COVID-19 (i.e. reduced lab access, cancellation of summer research opportunities, etc.), there is now a short answer application question allowing a summary of COVID-related interruptions. Incomplete research projects may be submitted. The required summary/abstract should include how the work will be continued.

2. Review Project Requirements for Discovery Scholars

A complete application will include a final project and a letter of recommendation. Utilize the designated School Coordinators for specific questions about project criteria for each individual USC School. For general questions about the USC Discovery Scholar distinction, contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at

Final Project Requirements

  • Review 2019-2020 Project Criteria for each USC School (use Bookmark tool to navigate) – 2020-2021 updated criteria will be posted before application launches.
  • Discovery Scholar School Coordinators organize the school committee for internal review of applications. Coordinators should only be contacted to clarify school-specific criteria if needed (this step is not mandatory). View list of Coordinators here.
  • Applicants who have earned the Global Scholar distinction must submit a completely different final project to be considered for the Discovery Scholar distinction and/or prize competition.
  • For feedback on content or structure of Capstone Project, applicants should contact faculty mentor(s) within discipline or the USC Writing Center.

Letter of Recommendation

  • Whenever possible, letter should come from the faculty member who has supervised or mentored the student on the project. Applicants should discuss intent to submit an application and request a letter as early as possible.
  • Letter should provide context for student’s work relative to the: student’s overall achievement and performance in the program; scope and quality of their contribution to submitted project; merit of the project relative to quality of work typically presented at the undergraduate level and the highest standards of the discipline; and value and implications of the project in the field of study and beyond.

Applicants will also be asked to submit a current resume or C.V. as part of the application.

3. Apply for Discovery Scholars

Graduating seniors must apply during the spring semester of their final academic year in order to graduate with the distinction. May and August graduates apply in their final spring semester. December graduates apply after graduation.

Prize Competition

Application Open: October 19, 2020

Deadline: March 22, 2021 by 11:59pm PST

First Round Notifications: By mid-April

Second Round Notifications (Prize Competition): By end of April


Application Open: April 1, 2021

Final Deadline: April 19, 2021 by 11:59pm PST

Notifications: By beginning of May

After submitting an application, students should closely review emails from Academic Honors and Fellowships for notifications regarding status of distinction, follow-up for prize nominations, and instructions for receiving a medallion at the beginning of May.

Prize winners must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program (within or outside the U.S.); or submit a proposal for a creative project that advances their career. Prize funding must be utilized within 5 years of graduating from USC. More information in the FAQ page.

Contact Us

General Advising: October – Mid-March
General information only – see School Criteria & School Coordinators for project-specific questions and Fellowship Fridays

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